Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Practice

What is drishti?

 

When you’re neck deep in something, you often forget that most people are only a toe in or maybe still standing on the edges. While we were on vacation, one of my sisters asked me, “What is drishti?” I’ve had this blog up for 3 years now, and I never took the time to explain the title. Shame on me!

At the surface level, drishti is where your gaze rests in any particular posture. For example, when you’re in downward-facing dog, your drishti is back toward your naval or your knees or a few feet past your legs. Other postures where your arm is extended, your drishti could be up at the hand or straight forward with a neutral spine. Drishti is especially useful in one-legged balances so you can focus on a single spot rather than other wobbling bodies all trying to do the same balance.

I used a drishti point with much intensity while in labor because it brought all of my attention to whatever I was looking at. In the case of my hospital birth, my drishti was the electrical socket behind the hospital bed. I kept focusing there, and it brought mental calmness with each crashing contraction and other distractions in the room like nurses coming in and out. If you’re a visual learner, imagine a photograph taken with a large aperture setting. It creates the effect of the subject being in clear focus while everything else around it is hazy and blurry.

I originally chose Finding Drishti as my blog name because I thought it was representative of my journey in yoga to get a clearer picture of my practice, my experiences and what yoga means to me. To be perfectly honest, I was using a somewhat narrow definition of the term, as if I had laser focus.

The more I’m reading about all the different elements of yoga, I’m also being introduced to other interpretations and broader definitions of key terms. We learned from Denise during teacher training this past weekend that when sanskrit words are being translated, you often lose the nuances. (This goes for any translation from one language to another, of course.) In the case of drishti, this gazing practice is not always that laser focus on one spot, one image or one thing. Drishti is the ability to see what we are looking at.

To me, that means being present. Not letting your mind wander off. Keeping your eyes (and your mind) wide open to what is already in front of you and around you. Be receptive. Be mindful.

Even when we’re dealing with pain or discomfort or boredom or even joy, using drishti gets us back to the here and now. It’s both a tool and a technique that can be used on the yoga mat and in real life. How many times have we driven home on auto-pilot and spaced out until we parked? How many times have we stared at an email draft for 20 minutes and not a single word was typed? We live in a world where our minds are looking at everything else except what we are actually looking at.

What if we gave ourselves the space and permission to be present? What if we turned off notifications on our phones so we can be more intentional in our daily tasks? It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s a pretty rad concept.

 

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